It is often asked by our fellow Christians, “Are you trying to be a Jew?” Or they might say something like this, “I am a Baptist, not a Jew.” Both the question and the statement are misunderstandings of the issue.
I am a Baptist pastor’s wife whose family has adopted the Messianic lifestyle. I am not a Jew, nor do I think that I can become one physically. However, I am a disciple of a Jew. His name is Yeshua/Jesus. This is an important distinction that must be made. As a believer in Yeshua I have been filled with the Holy Spirit/ Ruach HaKodesh and it is His job to transform my life into the image of Yeshua, the Son.
In Matthew 28 the disciples were told to make disciples. This term is very specific. A disciple is a student of a teacher/rabbi. The student or disciple seeks to pattern his life after his rabbi. In 1 John 2:6 we are told to walk as our rabbi walked if we are going to abide in Him. A disciple desires to place each step in the step of his rabbi and not veer off the path of his master. The disciple should end up looking exactly like his rabbi so that he teaches what his rabbi taught and lives as his rabbi lived. This is the call of the disciple.
Earlier in my walk with the Lord I often wondered if our faith really looked like His life. I wanted so much to look like Him, but there seemed to be a disconnect from what I read about His life to the way I lived out my faith. He lived as a Jew, completely submitted to the Torah or instructions/teachings of His Father. Yet we are often told in the church that the teachings of the Father are not for us today. Yeshua fulfilled them so we do not have to. So, let me get this straight. Yeshua obeyed and lived out the teachings of His Father so we would not have to obey and live out those teachings.
If that is the case than our lives do not look like our rabbi and never will. In fact, our lives would be the exact opposite. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Christians love the Father very much and want to please Him and for the most part they obey much of His Torah.
However, there seems to be an attitude of not wanting to look like a Jew. Many will say, “I am a Gentile”. While this may be true of our physical heritage, it is not true of our spiritual heritage. We have been adopted into the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the blood of Yeshua. We have been grafted into the tree of Israel. We have been made citizens of God’s household, Israel. We may have been far away but now in Yeshua we have been brought near.
To make it clear, we are not to steal the identity of the Jewish people. We do not replace them in any way. We do, however, enlarge them. The God of Israel takes us gentiles and enlarges His people and makes us one. We are now one people, believing Jew and Gentile. All those who come under the banner of Adonai through Yeshua are one people.
But what does this have to do with being a disciple? It is not my goal or aim to live like a Jew, but I do seek to live like a particular Jew, Yeshua. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Messiah.”(TLV) Paul, a Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah, is telling gentiles to follow his example in their walk as believers.
James in Acts 15:21 makes it clear that he fully expects the gentile believers to be going to their local synagogue each Shabbat to hear Moses read. He expects them to learn from Moses and so follow the example of their fellow Jewish believers in how to live this life.
The disciples were Jewish believers and never once intended for the faith to be disconnected from their Jewish way of life. After all it was God Himself that had instructed the redeemed of Israel on how to live. That is right, the instructions of the Father were given to a redeemed people. They had been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Then they were taken to the mountain and taught how to live, how to love God and their neighbor.
To be sure this is not a matter of justification, but sanctification. We are saved only by the blood of Yeshua. I do not seek to make a Gentile a Jew or a Baptist a Jew, I am merely pointing out that we follow a Jew. And, once we are saved, we must learn to live the life of a disciple to a Jew, and not just any Jew, but the King of the Jews.
Yeshua was not a Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic or any other denomination. He was a Jew who lived a Jewish lifestyle. To separate our faith from this way of life is to, in part, separate ourselves from who He was and is. I know that is not the intention, but it is the result. If we truly want to be transformed into the image of Yeshua/Jesus than we need to walk in His footsteps so that we can completely look like our master. Or to say it another way, we need to be totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit/Ruach HaKodesh in being transformed into His image, the image of the Son.
Yeshua is our Rabbi, He is our example. The ONLY perfect example of how to live a life that pleases the Father. Therefore, if we seek to please the Father than we must live as Yeshua lived.
So, I ask the question to anyone who seeks to be transformed into the image of Yeshua. What is keeping you from living the life of a Messianic Believer and following in the steps of your Rabbi?
For the most part over the last two thousand years the church has done a fairly decent job of evangelism. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is that on this topic the church has had a unified message, Jesus died for our sins, was buried and three days later rose again. This message has been communicated fairly well.
However, that cannot be said of discipleship in the church for the last two thousand years. Discipleship seems to be the church’s area of weakness. We have all been in an interview where the perspective employer asks us to state our strength and weakness. Well for the church its strength is evangelism and its weakness is discipleship. In this area the church cannot find its unified message and when part of the church seems to find a message it cannot seem to stay on message for very long. Why is this?
How many times has someone received Christ and went to their pastor and asked the question, “OK, now what? Now that I am saved how do I live this life?” and the pastor literally stumbles over what to say. That same pastor spoke with great conviction and assurance when it came to the salvation message, but now seems to not know exactly what to say when it comes to instructing one who has believed on how to live out this life.
The most common answers from the church are to read your Bible, pray and maybe join a Bible study group. With all respect to pastors, that answer just doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t tell someone who truly wants to know, how to live out their Christian faith on a day to day basis. Does God tell us how to do this or did He leave us hanging to figure it out ourselves as we flounder through this thing called life?
To be completely honest if we only rely on the New Testament to help us figure this out, we will be left with a lot more questions than answers. Especially, if we have to wade through the theological hoops our pastors send us through. What do I mean by that? Simple, John in 1 John 2:3-6 tells us to live or walk as Jesus walked, but our pastors tell us that Jesus only lived that way because it was cultural to His time and place and we don’t really have to live like He did and by all means don’t go back and read the Old Testament and start asking the question, “Does this still apply to me today?”
Please understand I am not trying to be harsh or critical toward pastors, I am married to one. What I do want us to understand is that we in the church have put theological blinders on ourselves and allowed the enemy to convince us of certain things concerning Scripture and the nature of the Christian life. Yes, we as Christians have to be willing to take an honest look at our historical and current understanding of how we are to follow our Messiah. We can no longer just put our hands over our eyes and hears and refuse to see and hear the truth, we are running out of time and we all know it.
So again, why is the area of discipleship such a problem? First there is the Biblical reason. God did leave us with instructions on how to live life as His child and we have refused to see it as such. The short answer is that the Torah/Law of God is His instruction manual to this life as His child. The longer answer is that the word “torah” itself means instruction and that its root word is actually an archery term meaning “to hit the mark”. That becomes even more interesting when one realizes that the word for sin is also an archery term that means “to miss the mark”.
Let that sink in, ‘sin’ is to miss the mark and the root word of torah is to hit the mark, while the word ‘torah’ itself means instruction. Instruction for what? Torah is our God given instruction manual on how to hit the mark of righteousness and live a holy or set apart life before God. It really is that simple. The Torah is God’s discipleship program.
So, the reason why Discipleship in the church is such a weakness is that it has refused to recognize God’s Discipleship program and has constantly tried to come up with its own, with a manmade system of discipleship. God has never allowed those things to work and never will, especially in a lasting sense.
The historical reason for our discipleship problem is much more complicated and even evil. The church rather early on started purposely pulling away from anything that looked Jewish. These were decisions made by gentiles and based on antisemitism.
The church councils, for example, told the people it was illegal to Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but instead must work on that day. The exact opposite of the Father’s instructions for His people. They wanted a clear break and difference between them and the Jews. This difference came from their own imaginations and not from Scripture.
Sadly, we have been living with those decisions for nearly two thousand years and have been convinced that they are somehow Biblical when that is not the case at all. Even the Roman Catholic church admits that they changed the day of worship from Saturday (the seventh day) to Sunday (the first day) on their own authority and not that of Scripture.
I want to go back to Scripture and see just what did the New Testament writers say. Let’s go back to John in 1 John 3:4 where he states that sin is the breaking of the Law (God’s Law/Torah). John also states in 1 John 1:9, that if we sin, we can confess our sin and that God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin.
Yet we are told that the Law of God/Torah is not for us or that it has been superseded. Do you see the problem? If the Law/Torah no longer applies then we do not sin and therefore we have no need of confession. Yet John also says that if we say we have no sin than we make God out to be a liar 1 John 1:10). He also goes on to say that if we are born of God then we will not live in a lifestyle of sin (1 John 3:6-9). In other words, we will want to live righteously before God and get rid of all sin in our lives through confession and turning away from sin.
So how does that Bible define righteousness and truth? We can find both of these and much more in Psalm 119. This is not only the longest chapter in the Bible, but it is also a loving description of the Torah/Law/Commands of God/The Word of God. His Torah is truth, it is the way, the life (according to Deuteronomy 30), the restorer of our life, righteous(ness), freedom, eternal and so much more.
Speaking of Deuteronomy 30 Moses also says in that chapter that God’s Torah is not too difficult for the people of God and strangely enough John reiterates this idea in 1 John 5:3.
So, what’s the deal? Is the Torah done away with for the life of the believer or not? I would definitely say, “No”!
Notice I am speaking in terms of the life of one who is already a Believer in Yeshua/Jesus. The Torah/Law of God was never a means to salvation, it was always the way in which His people who already believe live, love Him and each other.
In this perspective the giving of the Torah/Law was an act of grace. It is not Law vs. Grace. The Law is part of the grace of God toward His people. He did not leave us to figure this walk out on our own. He was gracious to us and told us how to live through Moses and then showed us through His Son, Yeshua/Jesus and finally gives us the power to live it through His Holy Spirit/Ruach HaKodesh.
Jesus showed us how to live a perfect, holy, set apart life. It was not a cultural life, it was a Biblical life, a life pleasing to His Father. He loved His Father the way His Father asked to be loved. He loved others the way His Father told Him to love them. He was a perfectly obedient Son. Why would we not want to follow Him in His example? How can we follow Him if we insist on living and walking in a different way?
Is evangelism important? Of course, it is! We need to tell others about what God did for them through His Son. The world needs to know that God loved them so much that He sent His Son. Only through the blood of the Lamb Yeshua are we saved, but is that the be all end all of discipleship? No, it is not! The believer needs to know how to please the One in whom they believe. We need to know what our obligations are toward our Father now that we are part of His family.
That is what the Torah is, it is the rules of the family and one must be part of the family first for them to apply. One does not become adopted into a family by obeying the rules of the family, but is adopted first and then taught the rules of the family so that the family can function as one unit. Was that not the prayer of our Savior? Doesn’t He want us to be one with each other and with Him and the Father? Yes, He does! How can that happen if we are all going in different directions when it comes to discipleship?
Then there is the issue of the Great Commission where we are told by Yeshua in Matthew 28 to make disciples, not just converts. How does He tell us to make disciples? We are to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all things that He taught.
What did He teach? He taught the teachings of His Father, The Torah. How many times in the Gospel of John does Jesus say that His words are not His own, but His Fathers? Many.
Moses even stated in Deuteronomy 18, when describing the prophet to come (ie. The Messiah), that he would have the words of God in his mouth and Moses was not talking about different words from what the Father had given him.
So, does the Word of God change? No, according to Scripture itself in Isaiah 40:8 the Word of God stands forever, as does 1 Peter 1:25. It does not change, it stands! Why would God change His word if it stands forever? He would not! He is unchanging and His Word stands forever!
Yeshua obeyed and taught the Torah. The sermon on the Mount, the only sermon recorded for us, is His teaching of the Torah. It begins with the Beatitudes that sound like a Psalm.
He then goes on to speak of not abandoning the Torah but practicing it and the importance of teaching it. His standards are high, and it is not as if He has a higher standard than His Father. No, He is giving the proper interpretation.
For any commandment that is given by God there is the issue of the heart at its core. Adonai sees the heart, not just the outward appearance or observance. That does not mean that the outward observance is not important. Instead it means that the observance should flow from a heart truly devoted to Him. Out of such a heart the observance of the commandment will be true and pure.
To observe the commandments with an impure heart is sin and to have a pure heart and not actually observe the commandment is also sin. Both are disobedience. It cannot just be interesting information to enlighten our hearts, it must move to observing what has been learned to make a true and complete transformation in the person.
Let us love Him with a pure and clean heart so that we may serve Him through obedience to His commands!
This is what we are to strive for through the power of the Holy Spirit!
Mark 12:28-34 discusses the first and second greatest commandment. Mark who is writing to a primarily Gentile audience is the only one of the Gospel writers who at the front end of His quote of the greatest commandment includes verse 4 of Deuteronomy 6 in his answer. It states, “Hear/shema, O Israel, the Lord/Adonai our God/Elohenu, the Lord/Adonai is one/echad.”
This part of the greatest commandment is quoted regularly by Jews who take their faith seriously. The Gospel of Matthew which was primarily written to a Jewish audience does not include this portion. So why would Mark include it?
Mark is wanting his Gentile audience to become familiar with this piece of liturgy, which the Jews would have already been very familiar with. It was and is quoted regularly in any synagogue.
The Jews did not need to grow accustomed to hearing this spoken, but the new Gentile believers who were now attending synagogue to hear Moses and the prophets read and learn about their new faith needed to know and become comfortable with it. They needed to know that what they were hearing on a weekly basis was not of human origin but comes straight from the Scriptures.
We need to know why we do things even still today. We need to make sure that we are not doing what we do just for the sake of doing or holding to a man made tradition, but because it is part of our Faith and from Scripture.
Three basic questions we should ask are: 1) Do we do what we do because we have always done it that way or because we see it being done in the pages of Scripture? 2) If we are doing things that are not in Scripture, why are we and when and how did we start? 3) If we are not doing things in Scripture why aren’t we and when and how did we stop?
1 John 2:3-6 states, “Now we know that we have come to know Him by this–if we keep (obey) His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep (obey) His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps (obeys) His word, in him the love of God is truly made perfect. We know that we are in Him by this–whoever claims to abide in Him must walk (live) just as He walked (lived).” Yeshua, the perfect Son of God in whom the love of God was perfect, is our role model on how to live this life. He always obeyed the Father and never broke one of His Father’s commandments. He never broke the Law of the Kingdom. Therefore, He practiced the Shabbat, the Feasts (Moed), the New Moons and all the commands of His Father that applied to Him as a man of Israel. He was not a priest, farmer or women so none of those laws applied to Him.
If He is our perfect example on how to live the life of a citizen of the Kingdom then shouldn’t we live as He lived, in perfect obedience to the Father?
Mark wanted His readers to understand that their salvation/Faith is from the Jews. Even Yeshua said to the women at the well that “salvation is of the Jews”. After all, in the first century we were first known as The Way, a sect of Judaism. Mark wanted them to understand their new Faith and not reinvent it to look more like the pagan world they were familiar with. Unfortunately, much of that was done and now we find ourselves having to ask the three basic questions given above.
Isaiah 8:13-16 says, “ADONAI/The LORD Shaddai is the only one you are to regard as holy, He alone are you to fear, He alone are you to dread, and He will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel He will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem He will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured. Bind up the testimony and seal up the law/Torah among my disciples.”
In Romans 9:33 Paul says that the stone that makes men stumble is Yeshua and in 1 Timothy 2:6 he calls Yeshua the testimony that was given in its time. So, Yeshua is the stumbling block and the testimony.
Historically, Christians have held tight to the testimony of Jesus and the Jews have held tight to the Torah. However, as we see in the Isaiah passage it is about both.
Revelation 12:17 lets us know it is the ones who hold to the testimony of Yeshua and keep the commandments of God that the dragon goes after. Both are important!
Finally, we see this in Isaiah 8:20, “To the Law/Torah and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they will have no dawn.”
Is it any wonder that the enemy wants us to keep these two, the testimony (Yeshua) and the Torah, apart? It is that all too familiar strategy of divide and conquer. Let’s not give him that satisfaction! Let us hold to the testimony, Yeshua, and the Torah!
Now, as we begin to witness to our older brother, the Jews, we need to be honest with ourselves and them. We have presented in the past a Messiah they could not recognize. Not only have we presented a Gentile looking Messiah devoid of His Jewishness, but we have also said that because He fulfilled the Torah/Law that we don’t have to obey it. That is and has been a big turn off to the Jewish people and rightly so.
We have essentially said to them, “believe in Jesus to come to God, but don’t serve and obey God.” That is essentially what they hear. And it is and has been a huge clue to them that the one we are presenting to them, at least the way we have presented Him, sounds and looks more like a false prophet than the real Messiah written about in the Tanakh (what we call the Old Testament). Let me explain this statement.
Deuteronomy 13 says that even if someone prophesies and it comes true or does signs and wonders (miracles), but they lead you away from your God and from serving Him they are a false prophet. Since to serve Him means to obey Him the false prophet is encouraging you to disobey the one you claim to serve.
Even Yeshua when speaking of those who come to Him and say, “Lord, Lord didn’t we do things in Your Name,” he said to them, “Go away from me you workers of Lawlessness, I never knew you.”(Matthew 7:22-23) This comment of Yeshua takes place in the context of a discussion about false prophets. This should be very sobering to us. We need to be very careful about how we present our Messiah.
Yeshua was a Jew and practiced the Torah. If He did not He would have been a sinner and not an acceptable sacrifice. He not only practiced the Torah, He also taught the Torah. If He didn’t He would have been coming against the teachings of His Father. He Himself said that His words were the words of His Father (John 8:28, 14:24). Remember, He is the Living Torah, which also means He would have been coming against Himself. He would have also, at the least, been calling Himself the least in the Kingdom according to His own words (Matthew 5:17-20).
Yeshua is the Living Torah, He practiced the Torah, He taught the Torah and promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would also teach us the Torah (John 14:26 & 16:13-15, Romans 8).
My point is this: Let’s be honest about our mistakes of the past and seek to rectify them with truth and grace. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past.
I also want to say I am not passing judgement on those who have taught this. I believe those who have come before us have done the best that they knew to do from what was taught to them. It is not about them, but about us and how we present Yeshua now and in the future, now that the LORD has opened our eyes.
“To the Law/Torah and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they will have no dawn.”
1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “I appeal to you brothers in the name of our Adonai Yeshua the Messiah, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no schisms among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same opinion.
Notice what this passage is saying, that we are to be one, with no schisms. That our words are to be the same and that being the same (one/echad) in mind and opinion makes us complete. Therefore, we are not complete as long as as we are not one/echad, as long as there are schisms between us.
I have heard others over the years speak of unity not meaning uniformity, and in terms of our gifts and talents they would be correct, however this verse seems to be saying that in terms of our faith they are not. Then there is this verse, Ephesians 4:13, that speaks of the Messiah giving different gifts so that His body may be built up “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God and become complete (echad), attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Messiah.” The oneness of the body seems to be the final step to the bride of Messiah making herself ready (Revelation 10:7).
Also, the body of Messiah keeping Torah, in other words, obeying the commandments is also definitely coupled with belief in Yeshua before His return (Revelation 12:17 – “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her seed—those who keep Elohim’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Yeshua.”).
So the question is are we there? No we are not. So what does that mean? It means we still have a ways to go. The prayer and hope is that we are on the road and not resisting the work of the Spirit in our lives and the life of the body. Remember the work of the Spirit according to Ezekiel 36:27 is to help us obey the decrees and laws of Elohim and do them. Also, according to Jeremiah 31:33 the New Covenant is the placing of the Law/Torah of God on our minds and hearts.
Therefore, the Reformation is not yet complete until these things are true of us. God is still working among His people and He is preparing us for His Kingdom. So we pray, “Your Kingdom come Your Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
So why is it important that even the Gentile believer obeys the Law of God/Torah. It is not only our obligation of living in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8), not only how we express our love for our Messiah (John14), but it is also how we make Judah jealous (Romans 11).
We are called to make the Jews jealous and even angry that we have something that they understand is theirs (Romans 10:19 and Deuteronomy 32:21). When we practice the Torah/Law of Moses/Law of God, when they see us practicing Torah it arouses in them a jealousy and in some cases even anger because they think we are hijacking what is theirs. However, Scripture itself tells us that the same law is for the foreigner and the native born (Exodus 12:49; Numbers 15:15-16, 29;Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 9:14 and Deuteronomy 1:16). It is for all those who choose to follow Elohim and be a part of His Kingdom.
At this point it is not just about our Discipleship in the Kingdom but it also becomes about Evangelism of the Jews. Paul in Romans 11:13b-14 puts it like this, “I make much of my ministry (to the Gentiles) in the hope that I can somehow arouse my own people (the Jews) to jealousy and save some of them. This jealousy is in the hope of their salvation.
So when we live out the Kingdom life it is as if we are Joseph saying to his brother Judah, “I am Joseph (Ephraim) a son of Israel and I bring you my brother good news of life, the Messiah, the true bread of Heaven, has come and He is Yeshua of Nazareth, Yeshua the Netser, Yeshua the Branch.”
Couple these two things, belief in Yeshua our Messiah and obedience to the commands of His Father and we have God’s recipe for His people becoming one/echad. Whether Jew or Gentile, we are called to be one/echad in Messiah and all those who follow Yeshua the Messiah and love Him will obey Him. We willingly become the bondservant of our Master to serve Him faithfully all our days.
What would the body look like if we did this instead of causing division and strife in the House He is building? Things would all come into place and the tabernacle of David would be echad! It would be ready for the glory of Elohim.